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1.  Complete Genome Sequence of Escherichia Phage Lw1, a New Member of the RB43 Group of Pseudo T-Even Bacteriophages 
Genome Announcements  2013;1(6):e00743-13.
RB43-related bacteriophages have a specific genome type that clearly distinguishes them from other T4-like viruses. Here, we present the complete genome sequence of a new virulent phage, Lw1, isolated as an Escherichia coli BL21(DE3) contaminant. Lw1 shares an RB43-like genome organization, but it does not contain putative AP2-domain endonuclease genes.
PMCID: PMC3861415  PMID: 24336362
2.  Vertical distribution of microbial communities in a perennially stratified Arctic lake with saline, anoxic bottom waters 
Scientific Reports  2012;2:604.
Meromictic lakes are useful biogeochemical models because of their stratified chemical gradients and separation of redox reactions down the water column. Perennially ice-covered meromictic lakes are particularly stable, with long term constancy in their density profiles. Here we sampled Lake A, a deep meromictic lake at latitude 83°N in High Arctic Canada. Sampling was before (May) and after (August) an unusual ice-out event during the warm 2008 summer. We determined the bacterial and archaeal community composition by high-throughput 16S rRNA gene tag-pyrosequencing. Both prokaryote communities were stratified by depth and the Bacteria differed between dates, indicating locally driven selection processes. We matched taxa to known taxon-specific biogeochemical functions and found a close correspondence between the depth of functional specialists and chemical gradients. These results indicate a rich microbial diversity despite the extreme location, with pronounced vertical structure in taxonomic and potential functional composition, and with community shifts during ice-out.
PMCID: PMC3428602  PMID: 22930670
3.  Phage Morphology Recapitulates Phylogeny: The Comparative Genomics of a New Group of Myoviruses 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(7):e40102.
Among dsDNA tailed bacteriophages (Caudovirales), members of the Myoviridae family have the most sophisticated virion design that includes a complex contractile tail structure. The Myoviridae generally have larger genomes than the other phage families. Relatively few “dwarf” myoviruses, those with a genome size of less than 50 kb such as those of the Mu group, have been analyzed in extenso. Here we report on the genome sequencing and morphological characterization of a new group of such phages that infect a diverse range of Proteobacteria, namely Aeromonas salmonicida phage 56, Vibrio cholerae phages 138 and CP-T1, Bdellovibrio phage φ1422, and Pectobacterium carotovorum phage ZF40. This group of dwarf myoviruses shares an identical virion morphology, characterized by usually short contractile tails, and have genome sizes of approximately 45 kb. Although their genome sequences are variable in their lysogeny, replication, and host adaption modules, presumably reflecting differing lifestyles and hosts, their structural and morphogenesis modules have been evolutionarily constrained by their virion morphology. Comparative genomic analysis reveals that these phages, along with related prophage genomes, form a new coherent group within the Myoviridae. The results presented in this communication support the hypothesis that the diversity of phages may be more structured than generally believed and that the innumerable phages in the biosphere all belong to discrete lineages or families.
PMCID: PMC3391216  PMID: 22792219
4.  Arctic Ocean Microbial Community Structure before and after the 2007 Record Sea Ice Minimum 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(11):e27492.
Increasing global temperatures are having a profound impact in the Arctic, including the dramatic loss of multiyear sea ice in 2007 that has continued to the present. The majority of life in the Arctic is microbial and the consequences of climate-mediated changes on microbial marine food webs, which are responsible for biogeochemical cycling and support higher trophic levels, are unknown. We examined microbial communities over time by using high-throughput sequencing of microbial DNA collected between 2003 and 2010 from the subsurface chlorophyll maximum (SCM) layer of the Beaufort Sea (Canadian Arctic). We found that overall this layer has freshened and concentrations of nitrate, the limiting nutrient for photosynthetic production in Arctic seas, have decreased. We compared microbial communities from before and after the record September 2007 sea ice minimum and detected significant differences in communities from all three domains of life. In particular, there were significant changes in species composition of Eukarya, with ciliates becoming more common and heterotrophic marine stramenopiles (MASTs) accounting for a smaller proportion of sequences retrieved after 2007. Within the Archaea, Marine Group I Thaumarchaeota, which earlier represented up to 60% of the Archaea sequences in this layer, have declined to <10%. Bacterial communities overall were less diverse after 2007, with a significant decrease of the Bacteroidetes. These significant shifts suggest that the microbial food webs are sensitive to physical oceanographic changes such as those occurring in the Canadian Arctic over the past decade.
PMCID: PMC3212577  PMID: 22096583
5.  The gp38 Adhesins of the T4 Superfamily: A Complex Modular Determinant of the Phage’s Host Specificity 
The tail fiber adhesins are the primary determinants of host range in the T4-type bacteriophages. Among the indispensable virion components, the sequences of the long tail fiber genes and their associated adhesins are among the most variable. The predominant form of the adhesin in the T4-type phages is not even the version of the gene encoded by T4, the archetype of the superfamily, but rather a small unrelated protein (gp38) encoded by closely related phages such as T2 and T6. This gp38 adhesin has a modular design: its N-terminal attachment domain binds at the tip of the tail fiber, whereas the C-terminal specificity domain determines its host receptor affinity. This specificity domain has a series of four hypervariable segments (HVSs) that are separated by a set of highly conserved glycine-rich motifs (GRMs) that apparently form the domain’s conserved structural core. The role of gp38’s various components was examined by a comparative analysis of a large series of gp38 adhesins from T-even superfamily phages with differing host specificities. A deletion analysis revealed that the individual HVSs and GRMs are essential to the T6 adhesin’s function and suggests that these different components all act in synergy to mediate adsorption. The evolutionary advantages of the modular design of the adhesin involving both conserved structural elements and multiple independent and easily interchanged specificity determinants are discussed.
PMCID: PMC3157838  PMID: 21746838
T4-like phages; gp38; adhesins; tail fibers; deletion analysis
6.  Morphology and genome sequence of phage ϕ1402 
Bacteriophage  2011;1(3):138-142.
Phages are among the simplest biological entities known and simultaneously the most numerous and ubiquitous members of the biosphere. Among the three families of tailed dsDNA phages, the Myoviridae have the most structurally sophisticated tails which are capable of contraction, unlike the simpler tails of the Podoviridae and Siphoviridae. Such “nanomachines” tails are involved in both efficient phage adsorption and genome injection. Their structural complexity probably necessitates multistep morphogenetic pathways, involving non-structural components, to correctly assemble the structural constituents. For reasons probably related, at least in part, to such morphological intricacy, myoviruses tend to have larger genomes than simpler phages. As a consequence, there are no well-characterized myoviruses with a size of less than 40 kb. Here we report on the characterization and sequencing of the 23,931 bp genome of the dwarf myovirus ϕ1402 of Bdellovibrio bacteriovorus. Our genomic analysis shows that ϕ1402 differs substantially from all other known phages and appears to be the smallest known autonomous myovirus.
PMCID: PMC3225778  PMID: 22164347
Bdellovibrio phage; dwarf myovirus; complete genome; terminase; capsomers
7.  Gene Network Visualization and Quantitative Synteny Analysis of more than 300 Marine T4-Like Phage Scaffolds from the GOS Metagenome 
Molecular Biology and Evolution  2010;27(8):1935-1944.
Bacteriophages (phages) are the most abundant biological entities in the biosphere and are the dominant “organisms” in marine environments, exerting an enormous influence on marine microbial populations. Metagenomic projects, such as the Global Ocean Sampling expedition (GOS), have demonstrated the predominance of tailed phages (Caudovirales), particularly T4 superfamily cyanophages (Cyano-T4s), in the marine milieu. Whereas previous metagenomic analyses were limited to gene content information, here we present a comparative analysis of over 300 phage scaffolds assembled from the viral fraction of the GOS data. This assembly permits the examination of synteny (organization) of the genes on the scaffolds and their comparison with the genome sequences from cultured Cyano-T4s. We employ comparative genomics and a novel usage of network visualization software to show that the scaffold phylogenies are similar to those of the traditional marker genes they contain. Importantly, these uncultured metagenomic scaffolds quite closely match the organization of the “core genome” of the known Cyano-T4s. This indicates that the current view of genome architecture in the Cyano-T4s is not seriously biased by being based on a small number of cultured phages, and we can be confident that they accurately reflect the diverse population of such viruses in marine surface waters.
PMCID: PMC2908710  PMID: 20231334
T4-like phage; cyanophage; metagenome; synteny
8.  Mobile Regulatory Cassettes Mediate Modular Shuffling in T4-Type Phage Genomes 
Coliphage phi1, which was isolated for phage therapy in the Republic of Georgia, is closely related to the T-like myovirus RB49. The ∼275 open reading frames encoded by each phage have an average level of amino acid identity of 95.8%. RB49 lacks 7 phi1 genes while 10 phi1 genes are missing from RB49. Most of these unique genes encode functions without known homologs. Many of the insertion, deletion, and replacement events that distinguish the two phages are in the hyperplastic regions (HPRs) of their genomes. The HPRs are rich in both nonessential genes and small regulatory cassettes (promoterearly stem-loops [PeSLs]) composed of strong σ70-like promoters and stem-loop structures, which are effective transcription terminators. Modular shuffling mediated by recombination between PeSLs has caused much of the sequence divergence between RB49 and phi1. We show that exchanges between nearby PeSLs can also create small circular DNAs that are apparently encapsidated by the virus. Such PeSL “mini-circles” may be important vectors for horizontal gene transfer.
PMCID: PMC2839356  PMID: 20333230
T4-like phage; genome evolution; modular shuffling; regulatory cassette
9.  Phage-Antibiotic Synergy (PAS): β-Lactam and Quinolone Antibiotics Stimulate Virulent Phage Growth 
PLoS ONE  2007;2(8):e799.
Although the multiplication of bacteriophages (phages) has a substantial impact on the biosphere, comparatively little is known about how the external environment affects phage production. Here we report that sub-lethal concentrations of certain antibiotics can substantially stimulate the host bacterial cell's production of some virulent phage. For example, a low dosage of cefotaxime, a cephalosporin, increased an uropathogenic Escherichia coli strain's production of the phage ΦMFP by more than 7-fold. We name this phenomenon Phage-Antibiotic Synergy (PAS). A related effect was observed in diverse host-phage systems, including the T4-like phages, with β-lactam and quinolone antibiotics, as well as mitomycin C. A common characteristic of these antibiotics is that they inhibit bacterial cell division and trigger the SOS system. We therefore examined the PAS effect within the context of the bacterial SOS and filamentation responses. We found that the PAS effect appears SOS-independent and is primarily a consequence of cellular filamentation; it is mimicked by cells that constitutively filament. The fact that completely unrelated phages manifest this phenomenon suggests that it confers an important and general advantage to the phages.
PMCID: PMC1949050  PMID: 17726529
10.  A Persistent, Productive, and Seasonally Dynamic Vibriophage Population within Pacific Oysters (Crassostrea gigas) 
In an effort to understand the relationship between Vibrio and vibriophage populations, abundances of Vibrio spp. and viruses infecting Vibrio parahaemolyticus (VpVs) were monitored for a year in Pacific oysters and water collected from Ladysmith Harbor, British Columbia, Canada. Bacterial abundances were highly seasonal, whereas high titers of VpVs (0.5 × 104 to 11 × 104 viruses cm−3) occurred year round in oysters, even when V. parahaemolyticus was undetectable (<3 cells cm−3). Viruses were not detected (<10 ml−1) in the water column. Host-range studies demonstrated that 13 VpV strains could infect 62% of the V. parahaemolyticus strains from oysters (91 pairings) and 74% of the strains from sediments (65 pairings) but only 30% of the water-column strains (91 pairings). Ten viruses also infected more than one species among V. alginolyticus, V. natriegens, and V. vulnificus. As winter approached and potential hosts disappeared, the proportion of host strains that the viruses could infect decreased by ∼50% and, in the middle of winter, only 14% of the VpV community could be plated on summer host strains. Estimates of virus-induced mortality on V. parahaemolyticus indicated that other host species were required to sustain viral production during winter when the putative host species was undetectable. The present study shows that oysters are likely one of the major sources of viruses infecting V. parahaemolyticus in oysters and in the water column. Furthermore, seasonal shifts in patterns of host range provide strong evidence that the composition of the virus community changes during winter.
PMCID: PMC1214601  PMID: 16151121

Results 1-10 (10)